August 25, 2014
The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Commissions Ned and Sunny: A Hartford Love Story by local playwright Jacques Lamarre, featuring Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker and Colin McEnroe
The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the world-premiere of Ned and Sunny: A Hartford Love Story. The play, written by Hartford-based playwright, Jacques Lamarre, tells the story of Edward “Ned” Roberts and Ann “Sunny” Thorsen, arts enthusiasts who meet in 1938 through the Mark Twain Masquers, marry, and establish a foundation to support the arts in the Greater Hartford region.
Produced in partnership with TheaterWorks, the staged reading will be directed by Rob Ruggiero and staged at The Roberts Theater at Kingswood Oxford School. The theater was built as a result of a $1.25 million gift from the Roberts Foundation to the school in 1972.
Emmy-winning actress Jill Eikenberry and her husband, Emmy-nominated Michael Tucker of LA Law fame have been cast as the Roberts. The couple resides in Easton, CT. WNPR host, Hartford Courant columnist, and author Colin McEnroe rounds out the cast. The performance will include original compositions for cello created by Burlington, CT-based composer Cory Gabel.
A fixture in Hartford’s social scene, Ned and Sunny Roberts established their foundation in 1964 to support the arts and other favorite charities. Sadly, Ned died just two years later at the age of 77. For the next 25 years, Sunny led the activities of the foundation until her death at age 95 in 1991.
“Since its founding 50 years ago, the Roberts Foundation has donated more than $8 million to nearly 100 nonprofits in the Capitol Region,” said Jack Kennedy, president of the Roberts Foundation board. “The Roberts were a remarkable couple. Ned was an accomplished cello player; Sunny, a recognized amateur painter. They shared a passion for community theater as well as a vision of how important the arts are to the quality of life in Hartford. This play honors their incredible legacy.”
“I discovered through my research that the Roberts met while working on the Mark Twain Masquers’ production of Our Town,” commented Lamarre. “Ned and Sunny loosely follows the structure of the Thornton Wilder classic, however the Roberts were a bit of an eccentric couple, so this play captures their playful sides as well as their philanthropic natures.”
The play reading will be staged for an invitation-only audience comprised of arts organization representatives and members of the philanthropic community on October 5.
Jacques Lamarre has debuted two plays at Hartford’s TheaterWorks: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti (currently on tour) and “Merry Christmas, Blockhead,” as part of Christmas on the Rocks (returning in December 2014). His most recent collaboration with drag superstar Varla Jean Merman, VJM’s Relieving Herself (The Farewell Tour, Part 1), is currently touring. His drama Pierce, performed by Herstory Theatre, will receive a reading at the Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough, NH this September. Lamarre’s plays have received productions or readings by the Emerson Theatre Collaborative, Playhouse on Park, Hole in the Wall Theatre, HartBeat Ensemble, Asolo Repertory Theatre, George Street Playhouse, and the American Stage Festival. As a marketing professional, he has worked at TheaterWorks, Hartford Stage, Yale Repertory Theatre and, presently, at The Mark Twain House & Museum.